Bargello Table Runner III

I’ve just finished piecing the bargello table runner top. The second pair of blocks went quite a bit faster than the original two because I was careful about pressing seams in the right directions so I would have no nesting problems as I assembled the blocks.

Bargello Table Runner Top – Finished

The unanticipated thing was pressing seams as I constructed the blocks – I discovered I had to press the seams in the opposite direction from the original two blocks so seams would nest when I went to attach the new ones.

Next I have to find a backing fabric. I’m going to do a pillow case finish without bindings to preserve the clean edge I have here.

Bargello Table Runner II

Years ago I did some wool on canvas bargello embroidery creating seat covers for several chairs.

Bargello done with wool and canvas

Bargello is done by stitching across a set humber of canvas threads – in this case I’d guess 4 threads – with adjacent stitches stepping down two threads. Also there are different numbers of stitches at different points – three consecutive stitches over the same threads, two, two, one, one, one, one… It’s the changing number of repeat stitches at any level that creates the interesting curved lines characteristic of bargello work.

It’s similar with creating bargello using fabric. Set up a panel from coloured strips, cut new strips of different widths from the panel, sew these strips together systematically staggering the colours to set up a bargello pattern.

Beginning to Lay Out The Pattern

Here is my completed bargello block:

Bargello “block”

Here are two blocks sewn together to make a curved diamond.

Bargello Double Block

Yesterday when I created a test block I wasn’t quite careful enough with my cutting, and my 1/4″ seam allowances weren’t perfect, so the finished panel was just a bit slanted. Instead of doing the same block using my second set of strips, I started a new layout and this time I made sure my ruler didn’t slip while cutting the initial strips, that I matched up my edges precisely when sewing them together, was particularly careful when cutting the panel into different width strips and nested the seam joins when sewing those strips together. My two blocks turned out pretty much the same dimensions (and although the photo doesn’t demonstrate it, this panel is straight).

The other thing I did this time was to add a 10th very dark strip next to my contrast colour. I ran into difficulty nesting the joins yesterday and that was because I had used just 9 strips initially – taking care to press my seams in alternate directions – but when I added in the contrast strip and joined it to the first (creating a tube) I ended up with a pressed seam not paired to another and as a result I was changing nesting direction for just about each join/point while assembling the block. With 10 initial strips I had the right number of seams that when pressed in opposite directions matched up.

Seams pressed in opposite directions

Sewing the different width staggered strips together was nearly effortless – the nestings were all just about exact. So in spite of some directions I’d found online calling for an odd number of strips to form the bargello layout, it turns out an even number of initial differently coloured strips makes the later sewing much easier.

Bargello Table Runner

The women in the last class I taught asked for another project. I thought they might be interested in bargello piecing. It looks complicated, but it’s another of those techniques where you sew strips together to set up a colour palette, then recut and re-sew to create some kind of a pieced pattern.

Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs. The name originates from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence, which have a “flame stitch” pattern. Traditionally, Bargello was stitched in wool on canvas; but bargello can also be created from fabric piecing.

A number of years ago I made a bargello quilted jacket:

Bargello Quilted Jacket – Back

The jacket was cut from 6 panels constructed from pieced strips – 2 fronts, 2 sleeves, 2 backs (joined in the centre). In this case the second cut was done so that there were two sets of strips on opposite diagonals creating the zigzag effect.

There are simpler ways to piece bargello. Today, I took nine 2″ strips cut from the width of fabric graduated in colour from pale to dark blue with a contrasting yellow/green. I sewed the nine strips together from light to dark, then added the contrast strip and sewed the first and last strips together to form a tube.

Bargello Table Runner – In Progress

Next, I cut the tube into 11 strips of different width (1″ – 2 1/2″) and sewed them together to create the parabolic curve. I had enough fabric in the first sewn panel to make two blocks which I then stitched together in opposite directions to get the “diamond” in the panel above.

I started out by cutting two sets of 2″ strips – I will use the second set of strips to make two more bargello blocks to add to either end of the current piece to construct a table runner – the project I’m suggesting for a class.

I will need to take pictures as I construct the second two bargello blocks to record the steps in the process.

So far we’ve heard back from one person who is interested in doing the class. Hope there will be a few more.